Pickles - Onions & Gherkins

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HOW TO PICKLE? - Onions & Gherkins

The majority of us here at Kings Seeds like to make the most of our excess garden produce. We have all been busy preserving our produce, making jam, freezing excess fruit for yummy winter desserts, making tomato sauce, chutneys and pickles, dehydrating fruit slices and tomatoes.

The options for processing all the garden bounty are endless so this blog concentrates on two of the pickles that most of us have been aware of since we can remember.


As a kid I was always game to try the pickled onions that were produced from most pantries. I wasn’t a big fan of onions but like the pickled taste. Everyone had their own recipe and the difference in tastes were incredible, even to my young palate. Some blew your head off or just made your eyes water a little. Some were soft and very brown or very sweet, others were just right. Back then, the varieties of onions used were pretty standard. If you use the smaller onions you can fit more in your jar. Today there are a few more to choose from and the ones we have are:

- Borretana (#7610)

- Pearl Drop (#7625)

- Purplette (#7630)

These varieties are all small and give a range of colour options. The Borretana is a flat brown onion. The Pearl drop is a small round white onion, often referred to as a cocktail onion. The Purplette are a mini red onion which doesn’t have the paper type skin so are quick to prepare.

Apart from the pickled onions often served up as a pre-dinner nibble or on an antipasto platter there are other ways of incorporating them into your cooking. Try throwing a few into your stew just before you dish it up. Use the separated layers in your salads, especially potato or rice salad. Add them sliced to your sandwich, roll or wrap.

pickled onions red white

Pickled Onion Recipe

This recipe is based on the Edmonds Cookbook version. The beauty of it is that you can make them without sugar if you prefer, for a sharper flavour. Adding sugar will dull the sharpness.

  1. Peel 1.5kg small onions and cut off ends
  2. Place in large bowl, sprinkle with ½ cup salt and cover with water
  3. Leave to stand for 24 hours
  4. Drain and rinse onions
  5. Stack in sterilised jars
  6. Add 1 whole chilli or 1/4 tsp flaked chilli
  7. Add pinch of peppercorns
  8. Fill jar (to cover onions) with vinegar (malt, white or cider)
  9. Store for 4-6 weeks to develop flavours

If you like your pickled onions a touch sweet, add sugar, using 1 cup to 3 cups of vinegar. Gently heat together until sugar has dissolved, then pour over onions in jars.


We have several varieties of gherkins in our range:

- Homemade pickles

- Pick a bushel

The Homemade are an heirloom variety that we sell a lot of. The Pick a bushel are a more recently added hybrid variety and the Mini white are for a different colour option.

Gherkins ended up being one of my favourite annual things to do. Initially I helped mum to make them each year and and then carried on making them when I had my own home, using Mum’s recipe. Feedback from friends indicates that the recipe below appeals to most palates. The best experience was a weekend snow skiing. Someone popped the round of Camembert cheese beside the fire to warm while I cut up some of my gherkins. The taste combination was divine after a big day in the snow. Warm gooey cheese and crunchy gherkins......mmmmm!

gherkins all

My Favourite Gherkin Recipe

This is a recipe used many times by my family. It is simple and quick and not too spicy.

  1. Stack sterilised jars with washed gherkins
  2. Mix in small bowl:
1 d plain salt
2 d sugar
1 t mustard seeds
1 t pickling spice
  1. Mix in pouring jug:
3 cups white vinegar
2 cups water

  1. Pour over gherkins leaving 1cm of top of jar clear
  2. Add 3 teaspoons of dry mix for each 500ml
  3. Cook at 175°C for 40mins from cold oven

d = dessert spoon

t = teaspoon

The pickling spice used above is Gregg's Whole Pickling Spice but you can always find an alternative or make up your own. Just keep making the mixture until you have enough for all your gherkins.

It is easy to swap and change ingredients to suit your own tastes with this recipe. Add whole cloves of peeled garlic or chunks of fresh ginger. Add a whole chilli. Add a lemon or lime leaf. Add whole peppercorns. Just be aware that less is more if you intend to have these sitting on your shelf soaking up the flavours.

Store for at least a month before opening for consumption.

greggs spicesPICKLING SPICES

Mustard seed is a good basic flavour for pickling spice. Herbs for pickling include a good variety of seeds that we stock and we always have them in bulk for you to buy. Try Anise, Coriander, Dill and Fennel seeds. Fresh ginger and garlic used in large chunks or whole are great additions as are whole or flaked chillies. Other spices to consider are cloves, cardamom pods, bay, lemon or lime leaves.

Enjoy experimenting!!!!

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